Boats at Waterhead, Ambleside

Boats at Waterhead, Ambleside

Bring Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons tales to life and sail a dinghy around one of the Lake District’s lakes, relying solely on the power of the wind and your own abilities. With everything from short taster sessions to multi-day courses accredited by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) available, as well as the option to hire out a dinghy, you will surely find something that suits your needs and skill level.

What Sailing Involves

You won’t find luxury yachts available to hop onto and take command of here in the Lake District, but you will find a plethora of small sail boats, also known as dinghies, that you can either hire, or take a lesson or course in. Each dinghy features a sail that can be manoeuvred into a position where the wind is able to then push against it, driving the boat forward. A rudder is also used for steering. If you are attending a course or taster-session, then you can typically expect to receive instruction on how to steer the boat, and possibly be taken on a boat with the instructor, or be given a boat of your own to sail.

What to Wear and Bring

As with most outdoor activities, you need to bring weather-appropriate clothing. You may wish to wear a wet suit, though you are far less likely to end up in the water than if you were canoeing or kayaking. You may be given one if taking part on a sailing course, or be able to hire one if you are hiring a dinghy. In addition, you will need additional layers of clothing during the winter, and waterproofs will help keep you dry if it is raining.

You should wear soft-soled shoes, such as trainers, in order to avoid damaging the boat. You should also be provided with buoyancy aids if attending a course or hiring a boat. In addition, bring along a dry change of clothes and a towel in case you do end up in the water. You may also want to bring some refreshments for your sail.

Where to Go Sailing in the Lake District

If you have some experience of sailing then there are places that will hire out a dinghy to you. Alternatively, if you are not sure where to start, you can book onto a course or taster session. In the Lake District, many of the hire centres also offer courses and taster sessions and you can find out what is available at each organisation in the details below.

River Deep Mountain High

RDMH is an outdoor activity company that has sailing as one of their adventures available. Sessions are one to one with an instructor in the boat with you, and take place at Windermere and Coniston Water. Hire is not available. Progression onto accredited RYA courses is also available.


Derwent Water Marina

This Royal Yachting Association Accredited Training Centre located on Derwent Water, close to Keswick, offers half day taster sessions and a series of accredited multi-day courses.


Ark Sailing

This small company is situated between Ambleside and Windermere and offers sailing tuition, and the option to charter a boat with a skipper for up to four people, as well as a number of RYA courses.

  • Address: Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere, LA23 1LW
  • Tel: 01539445256
  • Website:

Glenridding Sailing Centre

Offering sailing sessions on the delightful waters of Ullswater, tuition and boat hire is available, as well as activities specially designed for children.


Coniston Boating Centre

This non-profit making centre that is operated by the Lake District National Park Authority only provides hire, and no tuition. Wayfarers and Hawk 20s are available, and hire is only to those with sailing experience.